Follow the money: downtown and the landlords are trying to take over the Board of Supervisors.
It's not surprising. For the past eight years, the progressives have had enough of a solid majority on the board to prevent Mayor Gavin Newsom from putting some of his worst plans in place and to propose and often implement a much better agenda.
This board brought us the living wage ordinance and the universal health care program. This board is moving to solve the budget crisis with taxes on wealthy property owners and big law firms. This board isn't about to approve an Eastern Neighborhoods Plan that turns the city entirely over to the developers. This board supports public power and renewable energy, and is willing to go up against Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
In fact, these past few years have marked the first time in a generation or more that downtown hasn't controlled both the Mayor's Office and the board. And the big boys don't like it a bit.
They know they can't defeat Sup. Ross Mirkarimi in District 5, and that they can't stop a progressive candidate from winning in District 9. But they are going full bore, with huge bags of money, to try to get their toadies elected in Districts 1, 3, and 11. This is a real threat, folks. We could lose the board in November. We could lose rent control; that's what the landlords want.
Sarah Phelan and Ben Hopfer have put together a beautiful chart in this issue that shows how all this is happening. Essentially, a few big players and their political action committees have amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars and are using that money to try to smear supervisorial candidates John Avalos, Eric Mar, and David Chiu. There are independent committees doing hit pieces. There is money pouring directly into the campaigns of downtown candidates. There's PG&E money. It's a sewer of nasty campaign cash, all aimed at making sure that three solid progressives don't win.
The San Francisco Tenants Union has a study showing that big landlords, developers, and real estate lobbyists have poured more than $100,000 into a real estate slate made up of Sue Lee in D1, Joe Alioto in D2, and Ahsha Safai in D11. Almost $60,000 went to Alioto alone; that's a third of his total money.
You can see where that money's going if you live in the Excelsior, North Beach, or Richmond districts. It's going for misleading, nasty hit pieces. One piece attacks Mar for supposedly preventing neighborhood kids from attending neighborhood schools (on the School Board, Mar, like every other sensible board member, has refused to allow the schools to be resegregated, which is what the "neighborhood schools" movement is talking about). Another attacks Avalos for being too close to Sup. Chris Daly (sure, he worked for Daly and they share some political views. But if you meet Avalos, you realize he and Daly have radically different temperaments).
All this is part of a larger downtown strategy. If this crew can't win those three races in November, I guarantee they'll try to amend or repeal district elections in the next two years. They're well-funded, they're serious, the stakes are high and they have no problem fighting dirty.
If you live in Districts 1, 3, or 11, vote for Mar, Chiu, or Avalos. If you don't, you can still help. Go to Avalos08.com, Ericmar.com, or votedavidchiu.org. Show up at 350 Rhode Island St. (enter on Kansas) any Mon.Thurs. between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. to phone bank or 10 a.m. Sat. and 11 a.m. Sun. to walk precincts. Give money or volunteer. As the old Depression-era slogan said. This is your city. Don't let the big men take it away from you. *